Four years after a SWAT team fatally shot Cheryl Lynn Noel during a drug raid of her Dundalk home, the ensuing wrongful death lawsuit filed in Baltimore County has finally gone to trial. Attorneys for both sides gave opening statements last week.
During the wrongful death trial, a jury will determine whether law enforcement officers were justified in shooting Noel or if the deadly incident was an example of police abuse of power and her family should be compensated for her loss.
According to the Maryland wrongful death lawsuit filed by her husband Charles, he and Noel, a 44-year-old mother, were in bed on January 1, 2005, when at around 4:30 am members of the Baltimore County SWAT team barged into their residence using a battering ram and a flash-bang grenade because they suspected it was a narcotics den housing cocaine and marijuana. The officers, who were heavily armed, claimed to have found traces of drugs in garbage cans outside the residence.
Noel reportedly grabbed a lawfully registered gun that she pointed toward the floor. The complaint contends that Officer Carlos Artson then kicked in the bedroom door and without asking Noel to drop the gun shot her three times—the last time while she was already on the floor.
While Baltimore County Police maintain that they did nothing wrong, the Noel family’s wrongful death attorney maintains that Noel was within her legal rights to protect her home, police violated her civil rights by shooting and killing her without giving her an opportunity to drop her weapon, and the the third shot fired at her was “grossly excessive.”
Excessive use of violence by law enforcement officers can be grounds for a police brutality claim or a wrongful death lawsuit.
Lawsuit brings dissection of fatal SWAT raid, Baltimore Sun, March 18, 2009
Family of slain Dundalk woman sues Baltimore County police, Examiner.com, August 10, 2006
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